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Why Don’t We Just Get Rid Of The Guns That Are Used To Commit Gun Violence?

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              Yesterday’s column raises concerns about the failure of my friends in Gun-research Nation to discuss the issue of banning the guns which cause gun violence, i.e., assault rifles and what I call ‘killer pistols.’ In case you didn’t know it, both types of guns are designed only to kill or injure yourself or someone else. You can get a clear explanation of why such guns are too lethal for commercial sale and private ownership right here.

              Until and unless we bite the bullet (pardon the pun) and get rid of those guns, we will argue with the other side over various half-baked measures that won’t accomplish much at all. Sorry, but universal background checks won’t change matters much unless the data from those checks is tied into a national registration system. Sorry, CAP laws may keep kids from shooting themselves or a playmate, but such shootings account for less than 5% of all gun violence events.

              As for the development of so-called ‘safe’ guns which can only be fired if the user is validated through some kind of electronic gizmo attached to the gun, it will take some intrepid gun nut with a basic understanding of gun design about two hours to figure out how to put the ‘safe’ gun back to being unsafe. And then up goes the video on YouTube, okay?

              By remaining silent on banning guns that have no sporting use at all, we let the other side completely control this discussion, even if what they say has no relationship to the facts at all. For example, Gun-nut Nation says that government can’t ban a semi-automatic gun because the 2nd Amendment protects gun ‘rights.’

              The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with ‘rights.’ It’s an amendment, not a ‘right.’ How do we define ‘rights?’ We pass laws, and what are right and wrong behaviors involving guns, has been defined in four federal guns laws, each and every law upheld by liberal and conservative judges and courts.

              If we are ever going to pass another meaningful law to reduce gun violence, the law has to address the reason we have gun violence. In other words, we must do what other countries do and restrict gun ownership to sporting and hunting guns. 

              But we don’t do that. And worse, the people we depend on to define effective gun reforms go out of their way to avoid discussing this issue at all. The result? A majority of Americans, which happens to include people who don’t own guns, are opposed to any gun ban at all.

              I have been running a survey about banning assault rifles and have collected 957 responses, of whom 70% (680) say they own an AR-15 or another type of assault rifle. A majority of the owners, say they shoot the guns rarely, if at all. Only one-third of the owners of assault rifles say they have the gun for self-defense, but only 2% of the entire respondent population say that an AR-15 is too dangerous to own! You can download the complete survey right here.

              How many of the 957 respondents say they oppose an AR ban?  Try 44, which is less than 5%, and when the ban is defined as not grandfathering in existing guns, support for a ban drops to 2%. 

              Most of the respondents to this survey are gun owners, even if one-third don’t own assault guns. But that’s exactly the point. Because as long as gun owners continue to believe that a gun, particularly an assault-style gun, is something which everyone should have lying around the house, then the idea that we will see meaningful gun reform is about as real as the idea that Donald Trump will get re-elected in 2024.

              I am yet to be convinced that the scholars and advocates who want to reduce gun violence are capable of sitting down and having a frank, open and honest discussion of what they need to say to gun owners about the risk of owning guns.

              I hope I’m wrong.

What’s Wrong With Banning Guns?

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              Our friend David Hemenway has just been interviewed by The Harvard Gazette about Joe’s ideas for gun control and finds the strategies “excellent” and “good first steps to reduce the terrible problem of firearm violence in the U.S.”

            Down the road, David says, we’ll need to do more things, like universal background checks, better training, better safety standards for how guns are designed and more liability for gun owners who allow their guns to end up in the ‘wrong hands.’

              I have been listening to David and his public-health research friends talk about reducing gun violence for the past 25 or so years. They make the same arguments that David made to The Harvard Gazette again, again, and again. Sometimes they throw in a few more ideas, like requiring an individual permit for each purchase of a gun, or extending ‘red flag’ laws, or getting rid of those laws that allow someone to use a gun to defend themselves when they are threatened by someone else.

              Meanwhile, what none of these well-meaning researchers ever point out is one, simple fact about gun violence, which is that intentional fatal and non-fatal gun injuries (which happens to be how the WHO defines violence) are committed overwhelmingly by one type of gun.

              What type of gun am I talking about? Semi-automatic guns which load from underneath the frame of the gun. If the gun has a barrel of 16 inches or longer, it’s a rifle. If the barrel is shorter than 16 inches, it’s a handgun.

              The reason why this is the design of guns which are used in most shootings is because, believe it or not, that’s what these guns are designed to do. A Glock 17 which holds 16 rounds of military-grade ammunition isn’t a ‘sporting’ gun. An AR-15 which can take a magazine that holds 40 or 50 rounds isn’t what you use to go out and trek after Bambi in the woods.

              The whole point of designing a gun which accepts bottom-loading magazines is that if the magazine were stuck into the gun from above the frame, it would get in the way of the shooter when he aims the gun.

              Of course, researchers like Hemenway know that gun injuries are overwhelmingly a function of access to semi-automatic, bottom-loading guns. So why don’t they ever mention that banning such weapons would bring gun-violence rates way down? Why is it that every time one of these researchers points out that our gun-violence rate is 7 to 25 times higher than other countries, they then forget to mention that none of those other countries allow their residents to own semi-automatic, bottom-loading guns?

              Oops – I forgot!  There’s something out there called the 2nd Amendment which gives every law-abiding individual the ‘right’ to own a gun. And thanks to the essay by our friend Sandy Levinson reminding all his liberal, academic friends that the 2nd Amendment is as valid and as important as the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, we just avoid the idea that maybe, just maybe we should rethink the gun ban issue again.

              Actually, there has been some noise about calling for a ban on assault rifles, the reason being that those are the kinds of weapons which are used in the big, gugga-mugga shootings, like the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the elementary school in Sandy Hook, or the Las Vegas event.

              But the mass slaughters, what our friend Louis Klarevas calls ‘gun rampages’ don’t add more than 3% to the random, daily shootings which total at least 125,000 fatal and non-fatal injuries every year. At least 28 people were shot in Chicago over this past weekend. Big deal.

              By the way, when the town of town of Highland Park enacted a ban on assault rifles which was followed by a similar ban covering all of Cook County, the conservative, pro-gun Supreme Court let both laws stand.

              One of these days (hope, hope) my academic friends who do gun research will stop quaking when someone accuses them of being against gun ‘rights’ and will do the right thing and talking honestly about getting rid of guns.

In case you haven’t yet signed: https://www.change.org/bankillerhandgunsnow and https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now.

Why Ban Assault Rifles?

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              Here are 5 reasons why Mike the Gun Guy, a bone-fide gun nut, believes that assault rifles should be banned. Not regulated – banned.

Reason #1: Assault rifles are the weapons of choice when someone wants to kill as many people as possible.  Since 2012 there have been 10 mass shootings resulting in 30 or more dead or wounded victims. Every single one of these shootings was accomplished with and AR or an AK.

              Reason #2. Mass shootings like Parkland, Sandy Hook or Aurora kill or wound less than 3% of all gun victims each year, but these events devastate the communities in which they occur.  The Sandy Hook Elementary School had to be torn down after 2012 because residents of Newtown suffered emotional trauma every time they drove past the site.

              Reason #3. Assault rifles like AR-15s, and AK-47s are not (read: not) sporting guns. They are designed and used as tactical weapons, i.e., destruction of human life. These are tactical guns even when they only fire in semi-auto mode. They can be used for hunting or sport shooting, but that’s not what they are designed to do.

              Reason #4. Banning assault rifles does not infringe on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ at all. The 2nd Amendment is an amendment, not a ‘right.’ Rights are defined by laws and the Courts have held consistently that government can outlaw guns that are too dangerous for ordinary ownership or use.

              Reason #5. If the Federal Government were to compensate every owner of an assault rifle at fair market value for turning in his/her gun, the total cost would be 11 billion dollars. The 2020FY budget is $4.83 trillion dollars. As Bill Clinton would say, do the math.  It’s nothing.

If you haven’t, please sign our petition: https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now

What’s The Difference Between An Assault Rifle And A ‘Sporting’ Gun?

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              I have to hand it to the gun industry. Their products haven’t changed in form or function for more than 100 years, but they keep finding new ways to package what they keep selling to the same consumers again and again.

              Back in 2000 or 2001, the gun industry started getting worried about the possibility that the ten-year assault rifle ban enacted in 1994 might be renewed, with a renewal leading to a permanent ban. So the industry began promoting the idea that the assault rifle was just another ‘sporting’ gun, the idea being that as long as a weapon only fired in semi-auto mode, it couldn’t be considered a military gun because the troops all carried full-auto guns.

              Oops! The battle rifle that was distributed to U.S. troops beginning in 1994, replaced the full-auto sear with a selective lever which allows the gun to be shot in either semi-auto or 3-shot bursts. So if a trooper decides that the tactical situation requires that he set the gun on semi-auto mode, is he now going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?

              Then there was a bigger problem which occurred in 2008, thank to my late friend Tony Scalia, whose majority opinion granting Constitutional protection for civilian gun ownership only covered handguns. His decision effectively meant that all long guns, including assault rifles, were not given any kind of Constitutional protection at all.

              Guess what? In 2015, the city of Highland Park passed a law which gave residents who owned assault rifles two choices: they could get rid of their gun, sell it, destroy it, whatever, or they could keep their gun, sell their house and move out of town. The Supreme Court refused to review the case. In New York State you can own an assault rifle but you had to have acquired it before a gun law, the SAFE Act, was passed in 2013. Ditto in Maryland thanks to a law passed in 2014.

              What will happen if Joe wins the Presidential contest and the Senate turns blue? I guarantee there will be a federal gun law which will either extend background checks to private sales, or ban assault rifles, or both. Which means gun makers better come up with a new product line that can protect them from being the targets of another liberal assault.

              And guess what?  They not only have such a product that can easily take the place of assault rifles in the arsenals of all those law-abiding Americans who really believe that a gun will keep them safe from the Antifa gang. It’s also a product which gives them all the firepower and lethality of an assault rifle without making them vulnerable to any attempt to take assault rifles out of civilian hands.

              Remember – the 2008 Heller decision said that Americans had Constitutional protection if they wanted to keep a handgun in their home. The ruling said nothing about rifles, and in fact a later attempt by Heller to get his personal assault rifle protected by the Constitution was turned back.

              Know the only difference between the standard assault rifle and the Heckler & Koch handgun pictured above? The length of the barrel – that’s it. If a gun has a barrel that is 16 inches or longer, under federal law it’s a long gun and not protected by the 2nd Amendment, which is why the assault rifle ban enacted in Highland Park was upheld. But if a gun has all the same design and function features as an assault rifle but sports a barrel less than 16 inches in length, it’s a handgun, okay?

              What makes the assault rifle so definitively dangerous is one, specific aspect of its design, namely, that it loads from underneath the frame which means it can take a magazine which holds 20, 30, 40 rounds or more. And if the gun has a lever-type of magazine release, which is found on the gun pictured above, a shooter can release and reload a 30-shot magazine in a second or less.

              The kid who shot and killed 26 adults and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School fired off more than 90 rounds in two minutes or less. Sorry folks, but that’s not a ‘sporting’ gun, I don’t care what Gun-nut Nation says.

I got my flu shot today. Please get yours.

Tom Gabor: Canada’s Assault Weapons Ban—Can the US Follow?

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Following the murder of 22 people in Canada, the country’s worst multiple murder, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would ban the use, purchase, sale, transportation, and importation of assault-style weapons.  One of the guns used by the perpetrator was classified by investigators as “a military-style assault rifle.”  The ban covers 1,500 models and types of firearms and took effect on May 1, less than two weeks after the murder spree.

Trudeau asserted that “These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada.”

The government outlined the justification for the ban.  Assault-style firearms were deemed unsuitable for hunting or sports shooting purposes, given their inherent danger to public safety. The firearms prohibited were designed for military uses and were capable of injuring or killing humans quickly in large numbers given their tactical design and capability of holding a quickly reloadable large-capacity magazine. While some of these newly prohibited firearms were previously used for hunting or sporting purposes, the Canadian Government took the view that the significant risk they pose to public safety outweighs any justification for their continued use, given that numerous types of firearms remain available for recreational purposes.  The new ban also correctly notes that many of the deadliest mass shootings around the world have been perpetrated with assault-style weapons.

A large majority (80%) of Canadians support the ban and Canada is by no means an anti-gun country.  In fact, it has one of the world’s highest per capita gun ownership rates, with about 35 guns per 100 people.  Canada’s response to the massacre is similar to bans of entire classes of weapons seen in Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand following large-scale mass shootings and murder sprees in those countries.

The Canadian Prime Minister announced a two-year “amnesty period” to allow gun owners to comply with the law.  The government is planning to buy back the banned weapons, although they left open the possibility that existing owners could apply to have them grandfathered.  This issue, as well as the planned compensation for those who currently possess the banned weapons, will be addressed in future legislation.

The Trudeau Government should be applauded for its decisive and prompt action, as the political will to undertake such a significant step tends to wane with time, especially as there are financial costs to such a broad buyback of arms.  In addition, discussing but failing to impose the ban immediately has been known to lead to a surge in sales of the weapons expected to be the subject of an anticipated ban.

One of the lamest but most common criticisms of the ban was voiced by Canada’s Conservative Party leader:   “The people who will not follow these new regulations are the drug dealers and the gun traffickers, and the people who choose to do evil with firearms. So we believe this is completely ineffective.” 

This is utter nonsense.  Many mass shootings are committed by people without criminal records and, often, the weapons used are obtained legally.  By failing to ban these arms, we are making it easier for a prospective mass shooter to purchase them legally.  Studies in the US show that over half of all mass shootings are domestic killings, some of which spill over to include other victims.  In addition, not everyone has easy access to illicit markets.  For example, teenagers who target a school may find it difficult to purchase an AR-15 from traffickers or to afford such weapons once they are available through illicit markets only.  Like prohibited drugs, the cost of smuggled firearms may be many times that of the same models obtained from a gun shop.

As the Nova Scotia shooter is believed to have obtained some of his weapons illegally from the US, concern remains that some people can circumvent a ban by obtaining the prohibited weapons south of the border.  There is no doubt that additional resources are required at crossings along the 4,000 mile US-Canada border to minimize trafficking into Canada.  Even with a porous border, the ban will prevent the legal purchase of many highly lethal models of firearms within Canada.

The Canadian Government has kept the door open for the possible grandfathering of existing weapons covered by the ban.  What justification is there for the grandfathering of a weapon the government claims is meant for war and unsuited for civilians?  Exempting weapons already manufactured at the time the US Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 took effect had the perverse effect of increasing the arsenal of weapons to be banned as manufacturers ramped up production when the ban was imminent.  This situation seriously undercut the impact of the ban as models subject to the ban could still be sold once the law had taken effect.  The prompt Canadian ban will prevent the arsenal from increasing but, with grandfathering, a large number of weapons now subject to the ban (estimated at 100,000) will still be in circulation.

The new regulations recognize the possibility that new models of firearms, with simply cosmetic modifications, can be developed to get around the ban.  Rather than simply identifying models covered by the ban, I would like to see a clear definition of an “assault weapon”.  While several features should be considered as part of this definition, I’ll leave it to the gunsmiths to come up with one. 

Opponents of the ban argue that it is handguns that ought to be banned as they are used in far more crimes than assault-style rifles.  In Canada, handguns have been restricted and subject to registration since the 1930s.  Very few Canadians are authorized to carry guns for self-defense.  Still, they are more frequently used in crime than semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15.  Further restrictions on handguns may be considered at a later date. 

By contrast, in the State of Florida alone, two million people have permits to carry concealed weapons.  Most US states have “shall issue” laws, requiring the granting of such permits when basic conditions are met.  Then, there are about a dozen states that allow the carrying of handguns without any permit or training at all.  In some states, guns can even be carried into public buildings, including legislatures that are in session, as we saw recently in Michigan.   America is an outlier not just in number of guns per capita, but in the permissiveness of right-to-carry laws in many states.  At the same time, the US has by far the most serious gun violence problem among affluent countries.  The gun homicide rate is 25 times that of these other countries, when they are considered together.  Still, gun rights advocates argue that guns make us safer as a society.  There is not a shred of credible evidence to support this fantasy.

Can the US follow Canada in banning assault-style weapons?  Of course it can.  In the landmark 2008 Heller ruling, Justice Scalia of the US Supreme Court noted that weapons deemed to be “dangerous” were not protected by the Second Amendment.  The Framers would never have envisioned weapons like the AR-15.  In fact, Michael Waldman, the Second Amendment scholar from the Brennan Center for Justice, found that in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and in the notes of James Madison and the other participants, private gun ownership never came up at all!    

Canada Bans Assault Rifles. Can We Do It Here?

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Okay. Here we go. The Canadian government, or I should say, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has just announced an immediate ban on assault weapons following the killing of 22 people in Nova Scotia committee by a guy who had both handguns and long guns, although the actual types of rifles has yet to be disclosed. The list of banned weapons runs some 1,500 different guns and is basically every model of every AR-type of guns that has ever been made.

What Trudeau is proposing is that none of the guns on this list will be available for sale in Canada as of today. The government will at some point issue guidelines for compensating owners of these guns when they are turned in or keeping them under lock and key in some kind of grandfathering procedure not yet worked out. So what Trudeau is doing is somewhat along the lines of what Australia did after a mass shooting back in 1996. The possible amnesty provision in Trudeau’s new law appears to reflect the fact that Australia announced an amnesty for those possessing an illegal gun in 2016.

Were it not for the fact that the COVID-19 problem has sucked the air out of every other advocacy movement in the United States, you could be sure that this restriction on assault rifles in Canada would have been greeted by a loud response down here by both sides. But even the boys in Fairfax had next to nothing to say about Trudeau’s move; the main NRA website didn’t mention it at all, the daily news digest on the NRA-ILA site posted a 70-word comment last Friday which has already disappeared.

For those of you who wish that what Trudeau just did in Canada needs to be done down here, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the fact that Canada has a parliamentary system whereas we have a Federalist system means that a Chief Executive sitting in the Oval Office couldn’t ban assault rifles in the exact, same way. Of course he could. He could just order the ATF to revise the definition of a gun to take into account certain design features which are inherent to the AR. For example, under current law, a long gun must have a barrel that is at least 16 inches long. Make the minimum length of the barrel to be 24 inches and that’s the end of that. Or modify the law and ban folding stocks.  If the ATF were to make those two changes in the current regulations, and bye-bye the AR.

Of course Congress might then get into the act and pass a law overriding what the ATF had just done. But think about this: if the blue team can move 4 red seats in the Senate onto their side of the aisle in November, they control both the Senate and the House. And if Joe racks up the majorities in the 4 or 5 swing states which the polls say right now he enjoys, then the stage is set for the United States to do exactly what Canada just did regarding guns.

The good news for the Democrats is that right now there seems to be a much greater sense of bi-partisanship in terms of how to deal with COVID-19 than there has ever been when it comes to dealing with guns. Can you imagine George Bush doing a video calling for an end to partisanship if the issue involved guns? This is the same George Bush who allegedly became President because the NRA helped him win Gore’s home state.

But before you begin to dream about ginger snaps and gun control, just remember this. What the gun makers have increasingly done is taken the technology and design of assault rifles and build assault-style handguns, which if anything, are probably more lethal and more dangerous than the long-barreled assault guns. I don’t see any of those models on Trudeau’s list, by the way, which means that Canada hasn’t necessarily been made safer from the violence caused by guns.

Do Guns And Politics Mix?

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              I don’t know what’s worse. Is it the fact that I have to stay shut up at home or the fact that I continue to read stories about all the gun-nuts in America galvanizing around the anti-lockdown demonstrations, thus giving El Schmuck-o Trump another opportunity to attack the fake news? The latest such missive comes from, of all sources, none other than The Washington Post, whose online caption, ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness,’ may be referring to the possibility that Jeff Bezos hasn’t paid the paper’s current electric bill.

              Here’s the WaPo headline: “Pro-gun activists using Facebook groups to push anti-quarantine protests.” This is then followed by a picture of the two schmucks standing in front of the State Capitol in Lansing, MI with their assault rifles guarding the other 15 schmucks who were standing on the steps of the building – of course one of the patriots can’t wear a mask because then he wouldn’t be able to take a drag on his cigarette.

              The WaPo reporter tells us about a father, Ben Dorr, and his two sons, who own a bunch of Facebook pages devoted to gun groups which have become “digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitol buildings — from comparing the virus to the flu to questioning the intentions of scientists working on a vaccine.”  The story then goes on to detail how the various Facebook gun groups have aligned themselves with the rest of the alt-right internet cabal to promote anti-lockdown rallies in various Democratic states.

              What a journalistic coup! Is WaPo actually saying that gun-nut activists tend to be right wing? Is it possible that the AR-15 putzes who show up at these rallies to protect their Constitutional ‘rights’ are the same AR-15 putzes who show up every time a state legislature controlled by Democrats tries to pass a gun bill? Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.

              Incidentally, it should be noted that the size of these ‘massive’ demonstrations to keep us from descending into a Socialist state (it should only happen, God forbid) are also being hyped not only by the alt-right media but by the mainstream media as well. A website called the 2nd Amendment Daily News claimed that last week’s protest attracted “tens of thousands of protestors.”  Meanwhile, the State Police estimated that maybe 1,000 cars rolled through Lansing, which means that each car held 10 occupants, kind of like the clown car at the Barnum and Bailey Circus, right?

              But the real crowd crush occurred in Austin, TX where a crowd of 200 helped “fuel” what none other than The New York Times says are conservative protests against the lock-down here, there and all over the place.  Two hundred people in a state of 29 million, that was some rally in Austin.  But let’s get back to all those gun groups on Facebook that have become the front line for the pro-Trump, anti-lockdown surge.

              I happen to belong to a bunch of those Facebook groups. One group talks about Remington rifles, another group loves Glocks, a third group is all about the Colt 1911 pistol. These groups have thousands of members and thousands of ‘likes.’ But I notice that the people who put up posts and make comments tend to be the same handful every day.

              The problem with Facebook groups is that if you don’t post fresh content all the time, the page very quickly becomes stale. And then group members stop going to the page and then they don’t click on the ads. Which is what Facebook (and the rest of the internet) is really all about. The ads.

              I really wish my friends in the ‘fake news’ media would stop trying to manufacture stories that are just attempts to get people upset about nothing at all. Two dopes walking around with their assault rifles at the ready represent nothing more than two dopes. I’m much more interested in the yard signs sprouting up that as us to vote for ‘any functioning adult.’

              Thanks to Paula Schaap for suggesting this column.

Want To Promote Liberty And Justice For All? Carry An AR-15.

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I would rather not inundate the written airwaves with an extra column this week, but before the jerks who showed up with their AR-15 rifles in their ‘freedom’ cavalcade in Michigan inaugurate a national movement of freedom-loving jerks doing the same thing elsewhere, a few points need to be made.

What happened is a group calling itself the Michigan Liberty Militia helped organize a demonstration in East Lansing, protesting Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s lock-down order which drew fire from one of America’s staunchest freedom fighters, Rudy Giuliani, as well as from El Schmuck-o himself. The protest in East Lansing was the handiwork of the usual right-wing nut jobs who long ago took leave of even the most rational political beliefs, which of course gave the militia members an opportunity to parade around with their guns.

“We are just here to make sure that everyone has the right to assemble peacefully,” said one of the rifle-toting schmucks, who just to make sure that we all understand his devotion to civil rights, this idiot was wearing his MAGA hat. Exactly which group represented a threat to the demonstrators was never made clear, but no doubt we will soon see other such demonstrations of stupidity led by patriots like Cliven ‘let me tell you about your Negro’ Bundy’s sons. Remember when those morons made a ‘hard stand’ at the Malheur National Forest until the FBI wouldn’t let them get any more pizza delivered to their latter-day version of Valley Forge?

The point is that assault weapons have become a symbol of alt-right political activity in the same way that the ‘V for Victory’ sign became the New Left’s energizing symbol in the marches and demonstrations protesting the Viet Nam War. When the Nazis showed up in Charlottesville toting their AR’s and Trump couldn’t find a good reason to tell these douchebags to stay away, the AR as symbolizing ‘freedom’ and ‘defense against oppression’ began to move into the cultural and political mainstream and now is regularly toted around whenever any political rally promoting the alt-right agenda takes place. A whole bunch of these AR-loving guys showed up at Richmond back in January to protest a whole new tranche of gun laws. The only law that didn’t pass was the law banning AR’s; no doubt such a ban would have been considered a violation of free speech.

I want to refer everyone to an article about the cultural significance of assault rifles that was written by two criminologists in 2005 and can be downloaded here.  One of the major findings in the research was that while youngsters rarely used assault rifles in the commission of crimes, the popular media – movies, music – is replete with endless depictions and verbal references to AR’s. If anything, the degree to which full-auto assault rifles have become a standard prop in just about every ‘action’ movie and video game has increased dramatically over the last several years.

The guys from the Michigan Liberty Militia may be, chronologically speaking, full-fledged adults, but the truth is that when it comes to understanding anything about politics, COVID-19 or anything else, they’re just a bunch of kids.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at their Facebook page. The very first post is a quote from one of the biggest self-defense scam artists of all time – David Grossman – who runs something called the Killology Research Group which presents seminars on protecting schools and first responders from terrorist threats.

And let’s not forget that the upsurge in right-wing political activity pushing back against government attempts to enforce social distancing happens to be an organized, alt-right strategy being peddled by Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the MAGA crowd. You think this bunch isn’t the latest iteration of the Tea Party? Think again.

I’m not trying to find a reason to justify anyone who walks around toting an assault rifle in a public place. But I also don’t take these guys all that seriously because, when push comes to shove, these infantile idiots are much more prepared to shoot off their mouths than to shoot off their guns.

Please stay safe.

Is The Ar-15 A ‘Modern Sporting Rifle?’ Like I’m Voting For Donald Trump.

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              Back in October the FBI released their crime report for 2018 which showed that violent crime not only fell another 4% from the previous year, but dropped 14.6% over the last decade. Immediately the hot-air balloon for the gun industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) issued a press release contrasting this trend with the continued strong sale of assault rifles, the obvious conclusion being that guns protect us from crime.

              So the gun industry is finally admitting to something that they have been trying to deny for years, namely, that the so-called ‘modern sporting rifle’ is nothing more than a marketing scam to pretend that a gun that was designed for military and tactical purposes is just another good, old hunting gun. And how could anyone feel that any kind of hunting gun shouldn’t be protected by the 2nd Amendment, right?

              The fact is that the AR is advertised and sold as a ‘self-defense’ gun.  Now maybe companies like Bushmaster and Smith & Wesson are thinking of AR-owners as using their ‘black’ guns to defend themselves against an invasion from Iran, Iraq or from outer space. But let’s not quibble over technicalities; anyone who thinks that a bottom-loading gun which can discharge 100 rounds of military-grade ammunition in 4 minutes or less is a ‘sporting’ weapon has about as much of a grasp on reality as someone who believes that Rudy Giuliani is in love with the American way of life.

              When I first started writing about guns back in 2012, the most vicious and angry comments I received from Gun-nut Nation was whenever I stated that the AR-15 was a military gun. ‘How can you call this a military gun when the Army uses guns that are full-auto and this gun is just another semi-automatic gun?’  That was one of the more polite comments I used to receive.

              In fact, the current battle weapon carried by our troops, the M-4 carbine, can be set to fire in semi-auto mode or 3-shot burst. And I have yet to receive an answer from any of the Gun-nut Nation hot-air balloons when I ask them to explain how, if he sets the gun to fire once time every time the trigger is pulled, a soldier can go into battle with a modern sporting rifle.

              Which brings us back to the claim made by the NSSF that the decline in violent crime has something to do with the continued popularity and sales of the AR-15. Except this drop in violent crime happens to have occurred at the same time that the homicide rate has gone up.  Meanwhile, the percentage of murders committed with guns (72%) has remained constant over the last several years.

              In fact, guns have been the weapon of choice for people who kill other people for a century, if not more. According to Brearley’s study of homicide, data from the U.S. Division of Vital Statistics, of the 63,906 murders committed between 1920 through 1926, 45,666 were committed with firearms, which just happens to be 72%. Of course in 1920 the national population stood at 106 million, which means the homicide rate was, on average, around 10 percent. In 2017 the CDC says that the U.S. homicide rate was around 6 per hundred thou.  

              On the other hand, in both 1981 and 1991 the overall homicide rate was above 10 and in both years, guns figured in roughly 70% of all homicidal events. Up, down, no matter which way the murder rate goes, each year the number of people who kill someone else without using a gun stays more or less the same. And guess what? The U.S. murder rate which doesn’t have anything to do with guns is also higher than what happens in other advanced nation-states.

              The bottom line is that talking about gun violence as uniquely American may obscure the fact that America is an exceptionally-violent country with or without guns. Anyone have an answer for that one?

Bruce Pankratz: Using Zoning to Limit Assault-style Rifle Violence.

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This article is written out of personal curiosity about the merits of an idea. It is personal curiosity not advocacy.

A perhaps new,  interesting idea came long recently along. I cannot remember it being discussed in the many gun posts or articles I have read over the years or in places mentioning solutions to gun violence like the Bloomberg School of Public Health course on gun violence or in Tom Gabor’s recent book ENOUGH! Solving America’s Gun Violence Crisis.   The idea died as far as I know when Beto O’Rourke stopped running for president. But the idea was not confiscation. It was zoning. 

Recently the Des Moine Register said  “Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said Friday he was open to allowing people to use assault-style weapons like AR-15s and AK-47s at gun ranges and hunting clubs, despite his plan to ban the weapons purchase and to require owners of existing weapons to sell them to the government. “ (see Note 1)

America already has some forms of place control or zoning for guns so the idea is not really new.  You usually cannot hunt in a crowded city park or take guns onto private property without the owner’s permission being examples of place control. But applying place control to the so-called assault weapons seems new or at least seldom discussed. The concept described in this article then is to use zoning to help prevent made-for-television mass shootings with assault-style rifles while still letting people own them.

What this all means is there would need to be gun clubs with ranges for people to shoot their assault-style rifles where the rifles would be stored securely at the clubs and owners could clean or maintain their rifles but not take them off premises. Currently unless people live in the middle of nowhere they probably would have to go to a range to shoot anyway. The difference then would be the rifles stay at the club with the range so people cannot tinker with the guns at home in their basements. The clubs would need to have an  FFL who could only accept assault-style rifles from another FFL or send them to other clubs with an FFL and to state the obvious safe storage. Finally, with place control anyone who could legally buy an assault-style rifle could buy  one from an FFL and have it shipped to an FFL in a gun club who would accept it. They do not need to jump through all the hoops needed to own a machine gun.

Much of what we hear about gun control regulations has winners and losers. What follows are some tentative thoughts about who wins and who loses with this concept. 

Winners with place control:

1)School kids living in a world where the assault rifles only are used in gun clubs would not have to worry about them in schools. They would still have to worry about handguns so it may not be a big change 

2)Gun controllers would call it a victory

3)Fighting this idea would bring money into the coffers of the NRA and similar organizations

4)Assault-style rifle owners in the states where the ‘antis’ are trying to make the rifles illegal might be able to work towards legislation allowing people to keep their rifles in clubs instead of not at all

Losers:

1)TV news people (they would not longer be able to report on assault-style weapons used in school shootings and maybe fewer mass shootings)

2)People who live in the country who shoot assault-style rifles on their property

3)People who like to build or maintain assault-style rifles in their basements

4)Companies and dealers selling assault-style rifles could see sales slip

5)People who hunt wild pigs from helicopters using assault-style rifles

6)People who want an assault-style rifle for home defense

Some Open Issues (out of many possible others):

1)Grandfather clause for existing owners?

2)How get guns to a shooting match?

3)Would people actually obey the law?

4)How many aspiring school shooters would just switch to handguns?

5)How do families handle estates when the owner of a rifle dies?

This is only a first try at exploring the concept. Any constructive thoughts out there?

Note 1: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/candidates/2019/10/25/election-2019-democrat-beto-orourke-open-idea-letting-some-keep-ar-15-s-ak-47-s-hunting-clubs-gun-ra/2456493001/

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